Hazard perception is fundamental to safety, and employee skills to recognise, recall and report workplace hazards are critical. Little research has been conducted to determine their ability to detect and report a hazard. If your employees don’t see the hazard or believe the hazard is a risk; reporting will not occur. Hazards can be obvious (oil spill on the floor), emerging (cracks in infrastructure) and hidden (noise levels leading to long-term hearing loss). An experiment conducted at the Centre for Innovative Human Systems, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland revealed some interesting findings. Three simulated hazards were developed and placed around their risk lab. The experiment was designed to assess the capacity to recall, recognise and report hazards of the participants by means of an exit survey. The results showed that although the participants were better at recognising the hazards then recalling them, they failed to report or record the hazards in the survey.
Safety Management Systems’ reporting requirements
Safety Management Systems (SMS) have a requirement for collecting and reporting proactive information on risks and hazards as they are encountered in the workplace. Many reporting approaches use reports submitted from the “shop floor” as one of the inputs on risk and hazards that are managed by the SMS. Organisations may exert considerable effort to raise the awareness of hazards through posters or training, with the assumption that these will increase the detection and reporting of hazards. However, before the reporting process can begin, employees must be able to notice and identify all relevant hazards in their work areas. And this is the problem.
Often employees simply don’t see or understand workplace hazards.
Four steps in the hazard reporting process
There are 4 recognised steps in the hazard reporting process:
1) witnessing a hazardous scenario,
2) identification of the scenario as hazardous,
3) risk assessment of the scenario, and
Witnessing, and recognising the hazard is affected by the environment and the likelihood that it may injure or harm the employee. Noisy and busy work environments can make some hazards hard to detect. Perception of the risk of the hazard by the employee to create harm or injury, plays a significant role in determining if the hazard poses any risk. Personal experience creates bias in how employees treat hazards. For example, novice drivers treat all hazards with a similar priority, whereas experienced drivers assess and prioritise hazards. Hazards need to be processed and assessed by employees to determine if they believe they will harm or injure them. This is especially problematic when employees do the same job everyday and perform the same tasks repetitively as complacency sets in and they can’t see the wood from the trees. Finally, hazards need to be assessed as significant risk to be deemed important enough to report and record them.
The experiment and results
Three hazards were set up and 153 participants completed the exit survey to measure their ability to recognise, recall and record them. The hazards were a leaking chemical cupboard, a faulty switch box and a leaking pipe. After walking through the display the participants were asked to complete a short survey. The chemical cupboard hazard had the highest rates of recognition and recall of the hazard (51%) and was the only hazard that was reported to staff at the centre, with a mere 3 participants reporting it. No one recognised the leaking pipe as a hazard and only 37% believed the faulty switch box was a hazard. This study had a number of limitations including that the participants were not within an active workplace or had received any training on hazard awareness or mitigation. However the low levels of recognition, recall and severe lack of reporting opens up some interesting insights as to how hazards can be missed or ignored.
The need for hazard perception training
Proactive hazard perception learning activities have been shown to embed knowledge and significantly reduce workplace incidents and injuries. Hazard perception training should be a top priority for any company, regardless of the size or the industry. This training should be made available to educate all staff on how to safely work in their daily environment, how to spot a potential hazard, and how to maintain a health and safety culture that will spark awareness and interest in safety among employees. By following hazard perception training up with a robust reporting requirement, you have a recipe that will help to address workplace safety risks.
Research indicates that hazard perception training delivery is important especially around specific workplace hazards, and this is where virtual and interactive training methods make a serious difference. Learners need ownership, an active role in the process and relevance. This will produce a learning interaction that guides and embeds knowledge that will be ingrained during subsequent work practices to help them recognise and recall risk.
Safety training delivery is changing and changing fast due to new employees being part of a technology-savvy generation [see our post on immersive training methods]. Their expectation to receiving interactive, relevant hazard perception training is influenced by their increased use of smart phones, gaming platforms, social media and real time interactions with global peers on a daily basis. Training is no longer consumed by this generation, as it has been in the past via passive deliveries, e.g. classroom chalk and talk. There’s now more emphasis than ever to create engaging learning experiences that adopt virtual technologies and digital sites.
Tap Into Safety has interactive hazard perception training modules which can be completed in 15 minutes and can easily be added to your existing safety induction, on-boarding and refresher training modules via a simple URL integration.
The training modules show a 360-degree panoramic scene of typical work areas for a range of industries. They train on a variety of major hazards and risky behaviours that can occur in a work environment. Some of these include:
- Manual Handling
- Slips and Trips
- Working around suspended loads
- Various plant operation
- People and plant interaction